According to a recent survey from NFI Research, more than half of business leaders say their employee development offerings are readily available to the workforce. Eighteen percent of the 167 respondents said availability of learning programs is “extremely high,” and 35 percent said it is “somewhat high.”
Additionally, more than a third of them (39 percent) expect funding for training accessibility to increase over the next year, while 53 percent say it will stay the same. Of the former, 7 percent say it will increase “significantly,” and 32 percent say it will increase “somewhat.” These investments are all to the good, said Chuck Martin, CEO of NFI Research.
“We haven’t done this survey annually, so we don’t have a comparison figure,” he said. “But we were a bit surprised at what the future looks like. It’s a good sign that organizations are still committed to providing training, which can keep a workforce totally up to date.”
However, behind these straightforward stats are a few factors that help explain why the funding picture is shaping up this way, Martin said.
“What’s interesting about that is if you look at the cross-tabs, of those who will increase, small companies are two times more likely to do so than large companies,” he explained. “We’re starting to see this kind of consistency between small companies versus large companies.”
The survey showed that 21 percent of participants expecting funding increases for new and existing training platforms are large companies (10,000 or more employees), whereas 41 percent are small companies. Findings from another NFI Research survey show that 30 percent of large companies are expected to decrease overall head count, compared to 64 percent of small companies who planned to increase head count. Martin suggested that there was a connection between these two trends.
“We know from other research that we’ve done that large companies are generally going to be reducing overall head count, whereas small companies will be increasing head count,” he said. “In at least the next year or so, large companies are going to be downsizing. They are going to be mostly staying the same for funding of training. Small companies, though, are really on the march. With increased head count, it makes sense that small companies will be increasing funding for training.”
Another issue that came up in the survey is the fact that employees simply lack time for learning. This was cited as the single biggest obstacle to participation in development programs.
“We saw the same thing with vacation days,” Martin said. “The higher-level executives have four, five or even six weeks of vacation, but the majority of them don’t get to take it. It’s the same thing with training: The funding is there, it’s available, but people are just so flat-out busy that there’s no time to do anything. To leave the office for just two days for any reason is a huge deal for them.”
Also, pressures from a shifting labor market are having an impact. Martin said the number of workers changing employers will likely go up dramatically, which will affect training delivery.
“This whole ‘people’ thing is coming to a head. You can’t do a lot of hiring because the talent pool isn’t that strong. But small companies are going to be increasing their head counts, and they’ll be pulling a lot of those people from the large companies as they downsize. I think we’ll see a lot of move-around. Thus, you’ve got training that has to occur.”